Pittsburgh!

Who wants to go to Florida when you have Pittsburgh for spring break?

We again failed to plan a week-long spring break adventure with the kids. We were so on the ball when the kids were little and didn’t even know that they had a spring break – we went to Florida several years in a row. Now that they’re older and want to go places, Jon and I continue to drop the break ball and procrastinate. I did give them the DC trip for fall break though, so I don’t feel as bad.

We decided we’d hit Pittsburgh to visit sweet Elena and hang out with my sister and brother-in-law for a few days. Patty had invited the kids to Marietta at the end of the week to be with their cousins and celebrate Easter so Pittsburgh provided the perfect getaway spot for a few days. Maria wanted to leave at 6 AM on Sunday morning in order to get there by 9 AM. Mario and I talked get into leaving at 8:30 am. Mario told her he needed to play a little bit of his fortnight game before we left since he’d have no access to Xbox in Pittsburgh. I needed to walk the pup a couple of miles since I knew he would be staying inside with Jon while we were gone (although he loves it because he gets truck rides and pupucinos). We ended up out of the door by 9 AM, which I thought was pretty good.

I allowed the kids to stop at Starbucks and buy their pink drinks and a sandwich treat for the road. They had their blankets and phones, and were all snuggled in for the trek. Little did they know that I remembered to bring their books so that they could read a bit in the car. We had amazing driving weather – no clouds in the sky and a soft sun pressing on the windows. It made for a quick jaunt to Pittsburgh. We called Sarah when we were about an hour away to let her know we were close. She announced that there was an egg hunt at the Aviary. We told her we would head straight there and take Elena on the hunt.

The kids were excited at the thought of an Easter egg. They knew that they were going to miss out on the Grandview one we do every year since they would be with Patty during that time. We scooped up Elena from Sarah a few minutes after we arrived at the Aviary. We walked through the entranceway to find the Easter egg hunt. The kids were cracking up because it was just a small five foot patch of grass with a few eggs interspersed. Kids were told what type of egg to find (robin’s egg, bluebird’s egg, etc.). When a kid found the egg, he picked a plastic egg out of a big basket and opened it up to see what color ticket you got. A blue ticket got you a starburst; a green ticket got you a snickers bar. A bit different than what the kids had imagined. But they hung in there and made it fun. Elena thought it was awesome. We ended up planting ourselves there for a good two hours.

The kids got to fly a simulated flying machine. They were scared when they dipped down between tall buildings. It was hilarious to watch. They played in the penguin area with Elena. We went to storytime, which cracked us up due to the very animated older lady who read the book to us. We fed chickens after the book (the kids were pros due to MamaMeg and Peepaw’s house). We walked around to see the different birds, which Elena helped us identify. We ate lunch; the start of our fabulous eating routine. Here is Sarah and Jorge with all of their organics and granola, and here we are getting carry out pizza and chicken nuggets everywhere we go.

After the aviary, we unloaded all of our bags for a quick stop at Sarah and Jorge’s house. The quick stop included painting Easter eggs. Yet another activity that we typically do at the house before Easter but have been too busy to fit it in. I was happy that Sarah had went out and bought some supplies. After the egg coloring, we hopped back in the car and headed to Frick park. This did not go over as well as planned because we had worn sweet Elena out at the aviary. She proceeded to bawl her eyes out when Mario and I decided to play a little basketball together. But sweet Mario stopped playing in order to hold Elena on his lap and calm her down. Throughout this trip, I was amazed at his nurturing skills. Maria has always amazed me with her empathy and nurturing skills but those skills were not at the top of Mario’s list in the past so it was good to see him be able to go nurture his skills. We obeyed Sarah’s directive to have Elena back by 7 pm to put her to bed.

Maria and Mario got the joy of reading her a couple of books and trying to get her to sleep. About 30 minutes later, Mario quietly descended the stairs and proclaimed that he gives up. “She just won’t go to sleep.” He left the job to Maria. And don’t you know, she eventually got the job done. Of course, she ended up falling asleep as well. But she did rise an hour later in order to chat with us and devour some pizza we bought. She knows she’s got to get to bed at a decent hour because the little one will be up at 6:30 am ready to go. And sure enough, you could hear her asking where Meemaw and Mario were before the sun rose. We got up, brushed teeth, put on some clothes, and got E in the stroller to head to Starbucks. We ate our sandwiches and headed off to Frick with the hopes it brought more joy after a full night of sleep. The slide was still a bit wet from the earlier rain but the kids still enjoyed it. We hung on the jungle gym and Elena loved having Meemaw and Mario sweep under her arms and glide her across the playground like she was a bird.

Monday with the only nice day predicted for the week so we decided to hit the Pittsburgh zoo. The joke while we were there was how many times we went by an animal habitat and there was no animal present. The kids had wanted to hit IKEA on Monday but I refused because it was going to be nice out, and I wanted us to get outside at least one day in Pittsburgh. Hence, they loved to find no animals in their habitats and rib me about it. Although there were less than the optimal number of animals out, the most important one was out: the monkey. That is the only animal Elena wanted to see. We also got to see a giraffe, elephants, and lots of pretty fish. I don’t know what Lanae enjoyed more – the monkeys or eating animal crackers at lunch. Of course Meemaw would not let Elena eat the crackers until she finished her grapes and peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Mario enjoyed laying down the rules as well. I think the lack of rules that Jon and I have instilled has made the kids want to enforce some (but only on others)! Heaven help their children…. Mario was dead tired by the time we left, which cracks me up, because the boy can play basketball for hours or wrestle for days. But you have him walking around the zoo and he complains that his thighs are killing him.

After the zoo, we headed to Whole Foods to get ingredients for dinner. Earlier that morning, Sarah had told us that we were on our own for the day and evening because she had to work and Jorge was in Philadelphia. Maria loved that. She was so excited about “playing house.”

I could not believe the prices at Whole Foods. We bought three zucchinis and they cost nine dollars – outrageous! As I was lamenting the cost, Mario grabbed a little chocolate pretzel out of one of the bulk bins. Elena caught him. She begged for him to get one with her. They both thoroughly enjoyed engaging in some sneaky maneuvers in order to get Elena a pretzel.

As soon as we arrived home and walked in the door, Maria was ready to cook. She told me to leave and take a walk – she had the house, and kids, handled (as if she was 20 years old). And sure enough, she and Mario handled everything perfectly. She made some kick butt zucchini muffins and started dinner while Mario played with Elena. I got to unwind with a walk in the park. Maria made a yummy pasta and spinach dinner for us, which warranted her a trip to Millie’s – her favorite Pittsburgh ice cream spot. It did not disappoint.

When we returned home, I had to jump on a call. When I walked into the living room, this is what I found….

To their credit, this only lasted for about 10 minutes, and then they were up and running around and playing “pioneers” together.

Mario called it quits for trying to put Elena to bed. However, Maria stood strong and succeeded in putting her to sleep a second night in a row. Rock star. The kids played Gin Rummy while I gave Sarah a massage. The next morning, it poured rain. I tried my hardest to get us to walk to Starbucks but I could not convince the kids. Once we started driving there, I was glad that they won. Rain was coming down in buckets. We sat in Starbucks and ate blueberry muffins and oatmeal.

The kids could not wait for our Tuesday adventure. We were finally heading to IKEA! You would think that Ikea was an amusement park the way they were acting. I had read on-line that they were hosting spring break activities at the store but that ended up being a coloring table for toddlers. But that was OK; the store itself provided entertainment. Besides, Maria and Elena really just came for the Swedish meatballs.

After IKEA, we hit to the Children’s Museum because it’s not a Menkedick trip unless you go non-stop for ten hours straight. I had debated on bringing bathing suits for the kids because I knew Elena would want to play in the water play area. But, alas, I had forgotten them. I figured Elena could still splash around in the area without getting too wet. Wrong. She wanted to go fill on under the sprinklers. You know Ri was right there with her caring less that her clothes were soaked. The surprise was with Mario who typically cannot stand getting one inch of his clothing wet. He not only ran under the sprinklers but he allowed Maria and Elena to dump water on his head (but not hear his shoes). to see him because you need to pack everything and it’s tight as possible! He did it all for Elena.

Mario also ended up enjoying the art area. He pooh-poohed it at first when Ri tried to get him to sit with her. He and I and Elena ended up at a table playing blocks for a while. But then he saw kids running their artwork through a drying machine and that intrigued him. I showed him one of Maria’s creations where she traced her initials and that sealed the deal. He ended up in the area for 45 minutes making three separate creations – one with his initials, one with the word “HI”, and one in tribute to his favorite basketball player, James Harden. It warmed my heart watching him and Ri. Elena was simply concerned about getting to the ice cream store. We had promised her ice cream after the museum.

The sendoff was bittersweet, as always. We bounced the ball with Elena out back for a while – she’s got some mad basketball dribbling skills. When we went inside to gather our belongings, she found a birthday invitation from her friend. It was the cutest thing ever. She danced around proclaiming that she’d been invited to a birthday party and then she asked all of us if we wanted to go with her. Darling girl. We did several group hugs and then took off squeezed in the Volvo. The ride home was long; we were all tired, It didn’t help that we filled our bellies with gas station food.

Once we got home, we felt a mixture of relief in being in our own beds but also sadness in missing our little munch. It’s like a tornado ripped through our lives for three days but it was a tornado filled with stardust and glitter and ballerina twirls.

Summer nights 

Maria and Mario chowed down their dinner on Sunday night because Jon got a text from Biscuit and Cookie’s dad that they would be over in ten minutes to ride electric scooters with Mario. Ri chimed in that she wanted to go, too, on her bike.

Mario’s response in a flirty voice: “Ri has a date with Cookie….” 

She shoved him into the table.

We told them both to be back at Cookie’s and Biscuit’s house at 8 pm because it was a school night. Last word out of their mouths “ok.”

And 8 pm came and went. Jon was trolling the streets trying to find all of them. I was walking up and down adjacent streets. We asked neighbors if they’d seen them. Now, I was not too concerned for their safety. They were together in pairs – Ri and Cookie and Mario and Biscuit. That is one beautiful thing about our neighborhood – it has sidewalks, people are out, kids are running around. But I was irritated that they hadn’t listened to us. 

Finally, I see Ri and Cookie and Lucia biking down the street laughing and having a great time.

 “We stopped by and said hi to Lucia! When we told her Cookie’s mom was making ice cream sundaes she got her bike and joined us!”

Ok, we nabbed two of them but we needed the other two rascals. It was 8:20 and nothing. Then I get a phone call. My neighbor says “I’ve got two boys – one in neon. Want me to hold them til you get here?” Little does Mario know there are eyes all over Grandview watching him. I asked my neighbor to send them to Biscuit’s house.

   When I asked where they were, Mario replied excitedly “the highway!” 

What?!

He explained that he had convinced Biscuit to go down Grandview Ave. towards Tim Horton’s and the highway to “spice up” their usual route. Jon and I had a long talk with him about staying within a two block boundary. He is quite the instigator and I would bet he’s gonna be quite our little rule breaker, too.

But we forgot all about being irritated with them once the ice cream sundaes were served.  Moose track Ice cream, chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, whipped cream. Yum! We are gonna miss these summer nights.

   
  

 

wild childs

There is a family who lives close to us that we adore and they have two kids who are Maria and Mario’s ages. H is the same grade as Ri and R is one grade higher than Mario. It is a god-send because we can get the girls together at the same time as the boys and no one feels left out. 

This weekend, Jon and I took the girls and Mel and Stephen took the boys. Inevitably, we have crazy stories to tell when we swap the kids back to their respective houses. These kids party hard together! 

The girls went to their first book club meeting Saturday evening and made waffles with all sorts of toppings in honor of the book they are reading “Everything on a Waffle.” 

 
They were dosed up on sugar when I picked them up. We decided to head to the G-View Hop to get some Jeni’s ice cream. It was packed with people and the girls were charged to get two scoops of Jeni’s ice cream. We walked down to Nicholas’ house and said hi to him and his dad.  The girls love Nicholas, who is five years old and sweet as can be. After chatting with them, we headed to Trinity to play on the playground. The girls were wild and crazy along the way saying hi to people and jumping all over the place. They were even more insane at the park getting wet on the slides and taking their shoes off to run around. All I could envision was the two of them in college at some campus party; they would be the center of attention, no doubt.

  
They settled into the evening at 11 pm after taking showers and putting their hair up in towels.

  
The next morning, they begged for waffles so they could load them up like at book club. I agreed (I’m such a sucker). Notice how delicate and organized H’s waffle is compared to Ri’s insanity.

   
 

After some playing on the trampoline and xBox, we headed back up to the Avenue for one more dose of Jeni’s (Sunday Funday = ice cream for lunch). Of course it started pouring rain as soon as we left but the girls wanted to keep scootering. Wild childs.

  
Yea, these two make the boys look tame. They met us at Jeni’s with dry shirts and calm demeanors. They clearly had not been sufficiently sugared up on waffles, chocolate syrup and marshmallows. 

  

Getting it in

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It was 60 degrees when I got home from work last night. There was no way these kids were getting out of going for a walk with me. The whining about it being too cold to go outside began a couple of weeks ago right alongside the daylight savings’ time change. I feel their pain. It’s hard for me to push myself back out the door when I get home and it’s pitch black outside. My heart tells me to throw on my pjs and be done. But my mind tells me to take the dog out, get some cold air, enjoy the darkness and calm.
But this tug-o-war of the body and mind did not have to occur last night because it was warm outside. Like the beginning of Spring after a Winter frost. Delightful.
I offered to take two friends with us but everyone they called was being responsible and doing homework. So it was just us. I compromised and agreed to Jeni’s if they ate a good dinner.
I love walking with my two babes. They are hysterical and darling and observant. Mario acted like he was running into the telephone posts to make Ri laugh. Ri pointed out all the Christmas decor in the windows and how strange that was when we haven’t even had Thanksgiving.
“Get used to it, girlie.” I told her.
We were the only ones in Jeni’s and we had a sample fest. Mario cracks me up with his staple choice – wild berry lavender. I wish he’d choose chocolate because he never finishes his and I am not a fan of lavender. Ri, on the other hand, always goes for the chocolate and peanut butter scoops – my favorites…but she eats all of hers! Mario got his first and sat at the bar. When we went to sit by him, he shooed us away.
“I want to sit by myself, guys.”
He’s been starting this new independent phase where he wants to order on his own, sit on his own, do everything on his own. I won’t complain.
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After Jeni’s, they begged to go to the park. It was 7:15 and a responsible mom would have denied such a request. They still needed to read and take a bath and get to bed at a reasonable time with school in the morning. But I’m not a responsible mom when it comes to the last few gorgeous 60 degree nights of the season. We need to slurp it up while we can. And so the park we went. I chased them around, they slid down slides and I gave them some wild, twisted underdogs. Mario was scared to twist his swing chains around and then be pushed high in the air to untangle; but after watching Ri do it over and over, he tried it. Pure glee.
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They did a good job enjoying the evening with me. When we got home I asked them “wasn’t I right? Wasn’t it awesome getting outside?”
They both looked at each other and then back at me and shrugged their shoulders. They artfully dodged the question by wrestling around on the floor for the next five minutes.
Yea, they were not going to admit that mom was right. But I know….>

First day of school – 2014

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And so a new school year begins….
Mario in First and Ri in Fourth. We had one school year – last year – where the kids were both in the same building. It passed too quickly, and now we have Ri heading to the Intermediate school just a few blocks from our street and Mario staying at the Elementary school about a mile away. Ri has to be to school by 8 am (and will deal with nothing less than being ten minutes early) and Mario has to be at school by 8:15 (and could care less if he’s there early). It made for an interesting first morning. Jon and I had to draw straws to see who took who. Actually, we didn’t in the end because we both knew who Mario would want to take him. Jon. He’s a huge dad fan lately. So Ri and I started up our street at 7:35 am hoping to meet some friends along the way. We found Nora!
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Then Lucia!
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And then throngs of kids in front of the school doors. Ri talked with random friends and then the teacher came out to welcome them. I snuck in behind Ri and got to see her classroom. She promptly shoo’d me away and I obeyed. But not before making sure her school supplies were in the room. They weren’t. Great. I confirmed with her teacher that they wouldn’t need them today and found the name of the PTO rep who I needed to call. I swore I ordered her supplies not once, but twice on line just to be safe. She’s the child that will freak out if everything is not in order. I left without even telling her so she wouldn’t stress all day and promptly called the rep to make sure I could have her supplies by tomorrow.
Then I biked like Lance Armstrong down to Mario’s school. When I arrived, there was a line around the school to enter. I cut through it and I made it to Mario’s room in time to see him planted in his seat ready to learn.
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I had managed to get his supplies ordered ( the child who could care less). One star for me. Mario was quiet and shy. He began to draw on the sheet of paper in front of him that had the words “Summer, I did….” He kept glancing around at friends coming in the classroom. He doesn’t have any of his football buddies or previous boys from Kindergarten in the classroom but I know he will make quick friends. My girlfriend sent me this darling GQ-like picture from earlier in the morning.
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It was much easier to drop off this year than last year when Mario cried and cried. He’s growing up.
I biked over to Ri’s school at lunch. They had a 4-8th grade cookout. They were dancing to the YMCA song and running everywhere. Ri was her chill self sitting on the jungle gym.
“Why don’t you go dance, Ri?”
“I don’t want to.”
I smiled and rubbed her dangling foot. I’m learning to stand back. As much as I want to advise her on who to play with and who to befriend, I’ve got to let her be and trust that she will figure it out like we all did as young girls.
I biked from work at 2:30 to catch Mario after school. He came running out happy as can be
and chatting with his buddies. He confirmed he had a great day – thank goodness. I expected Ri to be down there when I arrived but she was not. I started to ridiculously fret that maybe she went home instead or got kidnapped or had to walk alone or… You name it, I thought it.
I got a text at 2:55 from Ri’s friend, Evie informing me that Ri wanted to talk to me.
“Mom, we are at the top of the hill;can I go say hi to Mrs. Pharion?”
I was relieved she had made it down from Edison and that she was not asking me to pick her up (she is not my walker girl). When I caught up with her, I asked her how the walk to Stevenson was. She said “great.” I was very happy to hear that word; hopefully she will continue to like walking home with Kathryn and Evie. It’s good for her. It also led to her pleading for a phone like Evie has and ten justifications for having one. This will an on-going battle this year, I am sure.
By the time I got done talking to Maria, Mario had decided to go with Stephanie and Quinn to DQ. Sophie ran over to Ri to ask her to go. Ri planted a big hug on her.
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And they were off for after-school ice cream with their buddies. First day over and done with – grateful to see it end with smiles and friends.
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A Summer Night

A Summer night

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Sitting on the curb
Licking rainbow ice cream
As it melts onto the cone
Burnt cheeks and tanned arms
From long summer days
The thrill of being 20 feet away from authority;
as long as that authority still cuddles with them at bed time.

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Blackberry crisp or vanilla bean?
“Let’s go for dark chocolate
with a dollop of whipped cream…”
Chatter about cats, teachers, and
Jessie
Random observations of people passing by and
belly laughs ignited by little brothers’ antics.

Brain freeze

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Ri and I ditched the boys the other night and stopped at UDF for ice cream. They had a buy-one-get-one-free sale so there was no doubt we had to head there. They were out of my favorite peanut butter and chip so I had to go with cookies-n-cream and cherry cordial. Maria, as usual, took forever to decide a flavor.

She finally chose peanut butter fudge cups with chocolate sauce and whipped cream (the ice cream scooper knows my “only a little bit of chocolate syrup” look by now, thank god, because before that she was getting enough sauce to feed her classroom). We both dug into our deliciousness and we both pooped our heads up a few seconds later. Our eyes squinted.

We had brain freezes.

We laughed at one another’s goofy expressions and then Ri asked why we get brain freezes. It’s certainly handy in 2012 to have an iPhone on hand to research such questions. If I would have asked my mom that question in 1978, we would have had to go to the library (remember the card catalogs at the library?!) and research by using actual books. Ahhh! Maria looked at me like I was 100 years old when I told her that.

We found out that a brain freeze happens when the cold strikes the palate of your mouth which strikes your nerves which swells the blood vessels in your head which gives you a headache. What can you do to prevent it?

Eat more slowly.

Forget it, we decided we will deal with the pain.